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Is Mental Illness in the Bible?

Updated on August 9, 2009

Is there mental illness mentioned in the Bible? We do not see mental illness spoken of particularly plainly in the Bible, because obviously the cultures of that day did not view mental illness as we do. I am not discounting that the inspired writers did not understand nor did God just decide this century was when it was to be mentioned. But mentally ill persons are surely in there if you look hard enough. Mental illness as well as all illnesses are because of WHAT?

Paul S. Taylor of "Eden Communications" states “One of the human race's most common and distressing afflictions was depression after Adam and Eve sinned against God. Sin twisted and broke every aspect of human nature, from the clarity of our mental processes to the bio-chemical make-up of our brains. Sin has multi-generational effects. It is embedded in every aspect of the social make-up of human communities and relationships." Bottom line sin has altered everything about the entire world.

Types of INSANITY 

1. Heart (Spiritual) – Our will powers are disordered because of our sinful nature. Moral insanity is "will-madness." The reason remains unimpaired, but the heart deliberately disobeys. Evil continually (Gen. 6:5) Compare Rom. 3:23  All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live" Ecclesiastes 9:3.

2. Influences (Worldly views of us) Mt. 7:13-14 Sinners strangely accuse saints of being mad and crazy. As soon as Christians begin to act on the truths they believe THE WORLD  cries out, "See, they are going crazy and they are uncaring ” We as Christians are charged with insanity every day if we like it or not. JESUS WAS CALLED “CRAZY” The apostles and Jesus was accused of being mentally unstable. (Acts 26:24,25; Acts 2) "apostles drunk?"

3. Head (Biological)- The intellect is out of whack and chemically out of balance - Intellectual insanity can destroy morality not only for mentally ill but for the aged.

There are two basic types of depression: exogenous (situational) and endogenous (clinical or biological). The third type is what I would like to discuss and because I myself suffer and have overcome incredible odds (thru the grace of God).

Depression is not rare. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.8 million American adults (9.5% of the adult population) suffer from clinical depression. “Myths About Depression” by Charles White. White states "The presence of the sick, the poor and the mentally ill are important reminders of Jesus and his ministry in the Gospels. We cannot make the church a museum of “bright, shiny” people or “catalog model” teenagers and call ourselves the same movement that flowed from the ministry of Jesus. The church of Jesus Christ should create- or recreate- itself into a form that includes the broken, the sick and the mentally ill. We should be careful that what belongs to Jesus does not come to resemble a country club. This is a serious argument for some of the kinds of “house” church structures that the emerging church is revisiting. It is a serious critique of the kind of image making many seeker churches pursue."

Stormy Ward a retired minister for the churches of Christ mentions on his blog. “In some people's minds, "depressed" and "Christian" is an oxymoron. Some think that it is a problem with sin, and that the real need is for repentance. Others hold that depression is an expression of weakness (or no) faith. There is no telling how many times suffering Christians have been abused by their brothers and sisters in Christ who speak out of lack of ignorance, fear, or even unintentional mean-spiritedness. One woman wrote, "...My children and I have a mental disorder that is genetically passed on called Bipolar Disorder. I had a fellow church member tell me that she hopes we ask for forgiveness every night, because you can never truly repent with this illness..."

The question arises, have people of faith or people in the bible been troubled by mental illness? If they did, did God condemn them for their state of mind?  Lets look at some examples. Both good and bad.

 Faithful Sufferers of depression

1.Moses-a hero of faith (Heb.11:23-28) and "more humble than any man on earth (Numbers 12:13)."- "I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once...(Numbers 11:15)."

 2. Jonah-"O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life (Jonah 4:3)."

 3. King David- Called a "man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22)."-"My soul is in anguish...The troubles of my heart have multiplied...My eyes grow weak with sorrow...My life is consumed with anguish...My soul is downcast within me...My heart is wounded within me...I was overcome by trouble and sorrow...My spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed (Various Psalms)."

 4. Job- Job is questioned his existence whoever the scriptures tell us  he was "blameless, upright, feared God, and turning away from evil (Job 1:1). Job moves from stability and community acceptance to bitter self-loathing and accusations of God’s evil intentions toward him. He sounds very unstable. His “confessional” speeches reveal a man whose world has come apart, and he has lost his anchor of clarity. Early on he states "Why did I not die at birth...(3:11)?" "..My soul would choose suffocation, Death rather than my pains (7:15).

 5. Jeremiah-The prophet-who was so esteemed that people even thought Jesus was him (Matthew 16:14)-"My sorrow is beyond healing, My heart is faint within me (Jer.8:18)." AND-"Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow (Jer.20:18)?"

Here, we see evidence that these wonderful men of faith and commitment were so depressed that they even some even welcomed death. You can't get much more "blue" than that. Yet, they were loved and praised by God. WHY? 

Society has taught us that everyone is a victim. When a person has problems in his life, he is often told it is the result of his past or how his parents treated him. The end result is that he does not take responsibility for his own actions. We see this today. People are suing cigarette makers because they have smoked for fifty years and are dying of lung cancer. Criminals claim that their dysfunctional families are the reason for their criminal acts. Everyone is blaming someone or something else for their problems. So we cannot also enable those with these handicaps and help their conditions.

What is the church’s responsibility to the mentally ill? Can the mentally ill receive God’s word? Can they participate in the life of the church? But are there limits that must be respected? The answer to all those questions is “Yes.” While there are places in the life of the church where emotional and mental illness would mean some limitations or boundaries, the heart of the life of the church- fellowship, worship, communion, service, celebration, love- should intentionally include the mentally ill.

Ward reminds us "The presence of the sick, the poor and the mentally ill are important reminders of Jesus and his ministry in the Gospels. We cannot make the church a museum of “bright, shiny” people or “catalog model” teenagers and call ourselves the same movement that flowed from the ministry of Jesus. The church of Jesus Christ should create- or recreate- itself into a form that includes the broken, the sick and the mentally ill. We should be careful that what belongs to Jesus does not come to resemble a country club. This is a serious argument for some of the kinds of “house” church structures that the emerging church is revisiting. This is a serious question to ask when looking for a church."

Manic-Depression has given me new strength and made me more willing to share my own life’s struggles with those around me. I so understand this is an incredible gift from God and I write and speak about it because of times I have knelt and wept to my lord almighty. I have been more open for prayer from others. I also believe I have a tiny emotional window into the experience of Jesus in his own dark times, and into his own ministry. My reading of the Bible is deeper. I believe I can enter into the experiences of hurting parents, piers, family friends and depressed church members.

I have experienced thru God's grace a new balance in my own life. I have struggled with serious manic-depression and severe, paralyzing anger in my own life. At times, these afflictions have hampered my thinking and my decisions, and wounded my family. Yet my family has experienced profound healing. My marriage has deeper strength than most we know. Others see and affirm this. My relationship with my family, friends and my congregation have enhanced the person I am today and for that I say thank you dear Lord.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Awesome awesome

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I don't believe that once you are saved and accept Jesus that all of a sudden your mind is completely transformed immediately. Years of mental trash in your brain doesn't go away overnight or the next day. There are a lot of Christians that fight addictions and old habits everyday. Especially in the beginning. Doing right by God takes patience, understanding, and discipline. God forgives those who stumble. To get closer to God is a learning process. It gets easier with time and prayer and a want to do right for God. I know these things from my own experience. Don't get discouraged if you feel you've done wrong or are nt "good enough". God is patient! God loves you! Keep your heart and spirit with God and he will help you. Don't quit on God and he wont quit on you. Praise his name! He loves and understands you! Glory to God! Glory to Jesus!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this. I suffered with depression my whole life and sometimes I feel like a bad christian for not being stronger... Your post has encouraged me.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      God is a God who Saves, Heals and Delivers!!! The word of God says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear( depression, anxiety & terror); but of POWER and of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND. We have a choice to believe the Word of God for any kind of healing we my need ( physical or mental). We need to speak out of our mouths that we have a sound Mind!! We need to speak that we have the mind of Christ! Gods word is true! Don't give into oppression & depression & bipolar, Jesus Christ has already paid the price for our freedom! Bipolar is just an attack that the devil is using to destroy people lives. We have to fight to keep our freedom. The medical industry does not understand spiritual attacks, they just drug the person with bipolar. But to the Christian who understands spiritual attacks we need to stand on Gods word & fight intill that (bipolar) leaves! And if you don't understand how to fight spiritually find a Christian who do. I am praying for all my Christian brothers and sisters that we have a Sound Mind! Love you and have a great & peaceful Day!!

    • revengadown profile image


      6 years ago

      Calling any Propheta mad poet, magician, soothsayer, crazy etc.This all affects someone psychologically. The Prophets would ignore them and feel confident about themselves because of the revelation that they would receive from God.Bible anyway,is full of exagerations , manmade laws and coruption so no wonder if it says that about Prophets peace be upon them

    • ChurchOfOpenSky profile image


      7 years ago from Forbes, New South Wales, Australia

      As a fellow suffer of Bipolar Mood Affective Disorder I found this article quite helpful. I lost my wife due to the severity of my illness was more than she could cope and she moved onto another person to love, though initially lied to me about the extent of the relationship. I have had several hospitalisations since and now on the correct medication that is affective in 'buffering' the brain chemistry to help maintain my condition. Coincidently the medication is one that was initially designed and used on Epileptics. @Vy I believe that my family, friends and congregation are seeing a transformation of me and I am becoming daily more like the man God intends be to be.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      It's comforting to hear that the apostles and Jesus also were accused of being crazy. I believe this is happening today among many saints and true followers of Christ. Walking in the spirit is "weird" to christians who lack true intimacy with the Lord and to the unsaved.

    • Michelle Callis profile image

      Michelle Callis 

      7 years ago from USA

      You brought up an age old topic in such a unique way! Very creative! The flow of your passage and organization of insights was easy to read and gave quick insights.

    • Wayne Tilden profile image

      Wayne Tilden 

      8 years ago from Roseville, California

      A quick note to Vy. Thank you for clarifying that epilepsy is not "mental illness". The Bible calls it "demonization" - which is not demon possession or oppression. There was no other understanding of the disease. "Demons" were spewed out of the mouth, the body was fully thrashed around, often body fluids were expelled. First Century "medicine" had no explanation. First Century theology, however, saw it as demonization and the original Bible translators read it as such and confused the issue to this day.

      Yes, scripture is inspired. God tries to show us the Heavenly through the realm we live in and we just don't "get it."

      This was longer and more of a hub than a comment. I guess, as an epilepsy patient I just needed to get it all off my chest.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I personally am tired of hearing how david was bi-polar, imputing the medical statistics of today's world, which is so so so much different upon the bible world. Today we have: irradiation of all foods that cross border, GM products, aluminum oxide in the atmosphere sprayed in long chemtrails, non free-range beef, chicken, eggs anymore, fast food that is all harmful, sugar products, gee this list is getting long not to mention cars, noise, concrete, then there's drinking, cigarettes, drugs... anyway, to continue...

      Life was quite good back then, a shepherd sat under clear skies and wonderful sunshine, breathed good oxygen filled air, no cars drove by, the meat for food was free-range, family was much closer a good healthy dinner. In christian circles much less percentage of fetal alcohol poisoning.. My point is this.. we can hardly imagine the differences between our worlds, first, the jewish world which all these men lived in and secondly, are our statistics mingled with the unsaved peoples statistics which do much different things than christians do? I think so.

      To approach this depression topic. When one sins against god, yes it is depressing but not in such a way as to be 'chronic' or a 'case'. The soul needs to go through a state of repentance, mourning sometimes deep disgust, This transgression toward god and the breach of faith toward a loving god, then after repentance, the soul carries on as before, having learned its lesson.

      Now i believe Legion was totally crazy, nuts, lunatic but he was unsaved, not a christian, a jew living in the time of jesus. God cannot teach an autistic person to make them study the bible. God mends each person accordingly upon acceptance of jesus as lord. Perhaps the person has to pray for healing or in some cases i assume god might use the autism, but in christ, we are all healed of our infirmities, eventually.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      If you take a look at Luke 9:37-45, it sounds like what would be a case of epilepsy, as well. It's not so much a mental illness as it is a neurological disorder, but it's there.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this. We chose this topic as a small group study and I was thrilled to find your view on the subject. Got something out of both parts. Thanks again.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent! Good article. Mom


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